Health professionals are seeing an increase in prescription drug abuse among the elderly — a problem that is largely going unnoticed due to the difficulties of balancing seniors’ legitimate medical concerns and the potential for abuse.
According to this article, “loss, isolation and easy access to medication make it increasingly common for aging adults to become addicted to the drugs they need to sleep through the night or manage their chronic pain.”
The number of people 55 and older admitted to the emergency room across the U.S. because of nonmedical use of prescription drugs more than tripled between 2004 and 2011, the article says, citing data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network.
The New York Times reported earlier this year that America’s 78 million aging baby boomers are also experiencing the effects of the epidemic. According to the Times, a 2011 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that among adults aged 50 to 59, the rate of current illicit drug use increased to 6.3% in 2011 from 2.7% in 2002; opiates were among the most commonly abused drugs.